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Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-out: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1007 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd] It is unbelievable. It is not just the 7,000 in Louth but 4,000 people in County Meath have not got their vaccination appointments, and they will also be travelling outside the county to other locations, such as Mullingar, Athlone and Citywest in Dublin. Will the Minister give the commitment that people want? My office is inundated with complaints from angry constituents who are very upset that this is happening. The final insult to one person from Drogheda was yesterday, when he rang up the hotline to ask where his vaccination appointment was, only to be told, “You missed it yesterday. You failed to turn up down in Wexford, where it was there for you in a hotel.” That is unacceptable.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Deputy. It is a pity to hear his anger and frustration in what is a very positive roll-out across the country. He and I have discussed in the Chamber on several occasions the need for a vaccination centre in Drogheda. That has been delivered and it opened last week, as the Deputy will be aware. On the Deputy’s question on whether we need to open it for longer, if that is required, we absolutely can. I have raised the issues directly with those running the programme. If more needs to be done in Meath and Louth, where there was not the same volume as in some other areas, it will be done. A lot has been done now and I expect to see that issue largely resolved. I will stay in close contact with the Deputy. If additional resources are required, he can rest assured they will be provided.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins I intend to use my time for questions and answers. Elderly people in my constituency of Cork South-West, especially the housebound, are concerned. I have always known that the ambulance service is flat out to the mat in the normal daily work it has to do, and it is the ambulance service that must administer vaccinations to the housebound. Has the Government looked at another mechanism for doing this? Many housebound people in my constituency are still unable to get it because the ambulance service is under too much pressure. That is the first question.

My next question concerns those aged over 60 who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Many people have contacted my office and my staff. Some of them had the first vaccine, which it is said is about 30% resistant to the Indian variant, and they are waiting 12 weeks for the second vaccine, which will make it 60% resistant. First, could Pfizer be used for these people over 60, or perhaps Johnson & Johnson, which has a bigger resistance, we have been told? Second, can the waiting time of 12 weeks be cut back? People are very frustrated and concerned that they are waiting a huge amount of time - three months or more?

I have previously raised the issue of Parkinson's patients in the House with the Ministers. Is there any movement with regard to these Parkinson's patients? I will allow the Ministers to reply.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler On the Deputy's question with regard to the housebound, there were 3,900 referrals in total from GPs. To date, fewer than 10% are left to be concluded. There are 240 people awaiting their first dose, 2,700 have got one vaccine and another 1,400 have got both vaccines. If the Deputy knows of specific cases and he wants to contact me, I will happily look at them for him.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am delighted to have the opportunity to ask some questions. Why will we not accept antigen testing here, when Europe has acknowledged it and it is acceptable everywhere else? I know of a family - a mother, a father, four children and grandchildren – who, the night before last, travelled home to see their dad, who is dying and is in palliative care. They were turned back at the port because they had the NHS test, not the PCR. Where is the humanity in turning them back? They had to travel back again, whenever they got the next ferry, and they will try to come here again when they get antigen tests, despite the associated costs. Why will we not accept the antigen test or the NHS test? They seem to be doing an awful lot better with the vaccinations and everything else than we are. That is the first question.

Ceist eile concerns St. Brigid's Hospital in Carrick-on-Suir. The Minister refused to answer on this but I will keep raising it because it is my duty for the people there, as well as the people of east and west Waterford. I refer to having that hospital returned to the status of a district hospital, with four palliative care beds and excellent staff and teams working there. Although there is fundraising and buy-in from the community, the Government closed it in the middle of a pandemic after the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, had assured Councillor Kieran Bourke, in the presence of Deputy Cahill, that it would return after the pandemic. They have rolled out all the excuses in the world about HIQA. It was a fly-by-night job, a trick-of-the-loop job just to cod the people by talking about a diabetic centre.

With regard to maternity hospitals, I want to acknowledge South Tipperary General Hospital maternity services. All of my eight children were born there, as were my eight grandchildren, and one, hopefully, in the next couple of days, making number nine. There are excellent staff and excellent antenatal and prenatal services, and we have been through all of those areas. Why is there management blockage in different hospitals so they will not allow partners, husbands, dads or siblings to go in with an expectant mother to get good news, although it can be bad news sometimes? I have written a number of times to the manager of the hospital, who told me they will examine it, and referred to the statement made by the Minister and the Department that they were easing the restrictions, but there is still no movement.

I cannot get any reply since the cyberattack - nothing at all. Even before the cyberattack, I had never got an answer from the Minister to aon ceist amháin. I will keep asking here and I will be raising it at the Business Committee again today, and the Chief Whip and the Ceann Comhairle have tried. I have never had a written answer from the Minister about anything. I have used my limited time to ask questions and I expect to get an answer. The Minister has plenty of officials with him to take the questions and answers so I can get an answer. Never in the last 12 months have I got an answer on any question I have put to the Minister here on the floor of the House. That is an insult and disrespect to the electorate in Tipperary, who, for the time being, have elected me and asked me to do a job for them. I do my best to ask the questions and we are entitled to get answers. It is an abdication of the Minister's responsibility.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe Carey): Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey The time is expired. I ask the Minister to reply in writing to the questions posed.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I thank the Ministers for their speeches today and for their work. In the short time available, I want to ask several questions and I do not know if the Ministers will have time to answer me. On a question to the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, I want to raise the issue of day centres. There will be an announcement tomorrow but respite has never resumed in Galway. It is painful to walk home at night and watch people of all ages out and enjoying themselves, with no social distancing, yet no respite centres are open in Galway. It is simply not acceptable.

Yesterday, I spoke on the draconian legislation that we are going to put through the Dáil once again, which is not evidence-based, yet we are clapping ourselves on the back for the vaccination programme. I pay tribute to the staff on the ground in the various venues but we need a full discussion at some point as to what we are doing in regard to public health vaccinations, what they are costing, the indemnity that we have given, and the pre-purchase and what it is costing. There needs to be a full discussion on that. We have completely ignored intellectual property rights. As was said by Deputy Gino Kenny, we are pushing ahead with making more billionaires on a trapped audience, and giving them an indemnity, but there is no parallel compensation system for those who might suffer.

The clock was not switched on so it is difficult for me to know what speaking time I have. As I have said before, it is not the Minister's fault that we are having a segmented discussion but we need an overall discussion in regard to what we are doing in public health. Vaccination is part of that but only part of it, so we need a proper and full discussion on all aspects in order to give us confidence.

With regard to the roll-out, I ask the Minister to come back at some stage and clarify that those in the 60-to-69 age group who, for various reasons, cannot take AstraZeneca, are not to be punished. That message is going out repeatedly. I think the Minister said today that there is no choice, although maybe I am wrong on that. Of course, there has to be a choice. Of course, there has to be a discussion between a doctor and the patient. The Minister cannot interfere with that. Sending out a message that people go to the bottom of the list and wait there is not good enough.

I am in a little trouble because I am not sure what speaking time I have.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe Carey): Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey The Deputy would be safe enough to conclude.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I will stick with the five things I was going to ask. The question on day centres and respite has been asked. In regard to Connemara, I reiterate what was said and I will not repeat it, but arrangements should be made and they cannot possibly travel into town and across town. I am not sure where pharmacists are at. I am not sure why we made an agreement with the pharmacists but have not used them.

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